Anāthapiṇḍika, the great businessman and devotee of Buddha, used to inspire his employees to take the eight precepts (aṣtaśīla) in the uposatha days.
--BY PROF DR TRI RATNA MANANDHAR
Management plays a vital role in every organisation. Management simply means to manage people tactfully. According to the economist John Hicks, management is, ''The process of getting things done by and through others''. In an organisation all the activities cannot be performed by a single person. Other people are needed to do the work. Only proper management makes it possible. In other words, management is the art of getting work done by others.
Although Buddhism is a spiritual teaching, it also consists of several social aspects. There are several teachings found in Buddhism related to management. Buddha established the Sangha community that consists of a well developed management system. Sangha communities were given much more importance than Buddha. The Buddha used to say, “I myself am just a member of the sangha” and “I do not govern, the Dharma governs.” Sangha communities as a supreme body recognise seniority. The seniority is counted according to the number of Rain Retreat (varsavasa) they spent as a monk. Buddha as a leader of a Sangha used to give rewards and punishment to the monks according to their behaviour and achievement. The vinaya rule enacted by Buddha is to run a Sangha community effectively. The Vinaya rule is needed to be followed strictly, observing the rules and regulations.
The Buddha never considered himself the “leader,” rather he let the truth govern. The sangha community was ruled by the members’ respect for moral conduct. Upon admission, each member had to give up his or her previous social status, wealth, fame, and other privileges. All external classifications and differentiations were disregarded. Members differed only in their stages of internal cultivation. The operation of the sangha community was based on mutual respect and love, and sometimes on the order of seniority. Thus, the bhikhus, bhikhunis, and the others each had their own rules. When disputes arose, the “Seven Reconciliation Rules” made by the Buddha were followed to settle the conflict.
Managing Life Properly
According to Buddha, human life should not be spent worthlessly. It should be managed properly to get the maximum benefit.
In the teachings of Buddha, there are several teachings related with managerial aspects which can be helpful in effectively managing this field in the modern day.
Four Branches of Business Management
Modern management theory has been divided into the following branches according to the functions.
1. Production management
2. Personal management
3. Marketing management
4. Financial management
Production, personal, marketing, financial are the functions to be performed in running a business properly. Several aspects of management can be performed more effectively if Buddha's teachings are taken into account. Production is important in a business organisation. Production may be of tangible and intangible things. It is the conversion of raw materials into a finished product. In production several processes need to be performed. Human resources and machinery need to work simultaneously. Working with heavy equipment and machines may involve accidents. Despite the preventive measures taken, they happen, leading to the loss of personnel and goods, and increasing the cost of production. The accidents generally happen due to a lack of alertness. The reason being, imbalanced restlessness in the mind of workers. This type of accident can significantly be reduced by providing mindfulness training to workers.
Labour and Management conflicts could slow production. These conflicts can be minimised by providing incentives properly. As suggested by Buddha in the Dighanikāya several incentives can be provided to overcome the conflicts that could emerge due to the misunderstanding between the labour and management. Similarly, the marketing functions can be carried out effectively through customer satisfaction. The problem of funds in an organisation can also be managed through the savings technique as suggested by Buddha. The teachings of Buddha that emphasise the need for saving and reinvestment could be valuable for financial management.
To achieve success in different aspects of management, a common function has been developed that consists of planning, organising, decision making, staffing, motivating, coordination, communication, direction and control. These functions of management can be effectively performed with the blending of Buddhist teachings. Positive results can be achieved if such teachings are blended with modern business management theory. This can be discussed in the following ways.
Personal management manages the labour and staff of an organisation. It is human resource management. If human resources are properly managed the desired results can be obtained easily. As we have defined, management is getting work done by people. Until and unless the worker works properly, an organisation will not get success. Human resources and machines are necessary for business but they should not be treated similarly. Human resources, in contrast to machinery and tools, possess feelings and it is crucial to manage them.
Every activity inside an organisation needs human resources and the success of the whole management also depends upon the proper management of human resources. In short, behind production management, financial management, to selling the product in the market, to administrative functions, are people.
Human resource has been highly emphasised in Buddha's teachings. Buddha had said the human birth is very scarce since only in this life can one make maximum contributions for oneself and the world. Buddha has suggested ways in which to observe certain precepts and follow the techniques to a balanced life. Through those teachings proper discipline, dedication and concentration will be developed. This will help to increase the productivity which is the goal of an organisation. As human life is precious and scarce humans should be given importance and obey each other. In the work place obeying seniors and giving importance to juniors creates a good environment that helps productivity.
Motivation is one of the important functions in management. It inspires workers to work. To create the willingness to work, different models have been developed. The whole point of personnel management is to get work done properly through the proper utilisation of human resources. To effectively manage human resources the proper selection should be done. They should be given the opportunity to develop their skills through training programmes. The employees should be given adequate remuneration and different types of incentives which will inspire them to work hard.
The industrial discipline also needs to be maintained for high productivity. The high moral development of the labour force adds to the high productivity. Similarly, welfare programmes like medical facilities, education facilities for their children will encourage them to work willingly and effectively.
If proper facilities are not given to them they may quit. This is known as labour turnover which costs an organisation a lot. Buddha had emphasised the importance of the labour force and providing them with several incentives to decrease the labour turnover so that the effectiveness in an organsation can be achieved. This is emphasised and depicted in his Siṃgālovādasutta of DighaNikāya.
At the time of Buddha there was a tradition of venerating six directions in the morning after taking a bath. Buddha said the veneration of the six directions is to fulfill the duties toward six communities which are encountered by people in their daily life. The six directions and their respective communities according to Buddha are:
1. East direction: Mother and father
2. South direction: Teacher
3. West direction: Wife and children
4. North direction: Friends
5. Upward direction: Brahmin (enlightened one)
6. Downward direction: Workers
Buddha has put the worker in the downward direction. Downward is the place where we stand and is the base for all activity. So, Buddha has given higher importance to them.
Buddha described the veneration shown to the downward direction as fulfilling the duties towards workers and staff. Only then can employers get work properly done from them. The duties to be performed for them according to Buddha are as follows:
1. To give the work according to the ability.
2. To provide adequate salary by which they can manage their family easily.
3. To give health care in case of illness.
4. To give additional privileges of food (Bonus)
5. To give holidays at different occasions.
If these duties are fulfilled by the employer, then employees also would be responsible towards the employer and thus fulfill the duties as follows:
1. They rise before him.
2. They go to sleep after him.
3. They perform their duty well.
4. They only take what is given to them.(They do not misappropriate the goods)
5. They uphold his good name and fame.
Moral Conduct within Workers
Moral conduct in Buddhism is taken as the primary importance of life. Buddha emphasises to live every step of life with moral conduct. Moral conduct plays the role of a foundation for a good life. Moral conduct in Buddhism is living life by observing Sila. It consists of 5 precepts (pancasila) and 8 precepts (aṣtaśīla). Only by leading life with śīla (morality) can one achieve the Samādhī (concentration) and paññā (wisdom).
To get success in economic activity moral conduct plays a vital role. Moral conduct is important to the producer, management and entrepreneurs who have to lead in economic activities. It is equally necessary also for the labour force. The effectiveness of an enterprise depends upon the moral conduct of the workers. Moral conduct has been recognised as one of the important factors in winning or losing wars. High moral conduct brings success while low moral conduct leads to defeat in war.
The need for moral conduct in business activities has been emphasised in Buddhist Jātaka literature. If moral conduct is high, the production will be higher and if it is low, the production is bound to suffer considerably.
For managerial purposes, the term moral conduct has been defined in different ways although the definitions revolve around attitude, mentality, willingness to work, capacity to co-operate with each other and respecting the rules and discipline. High moral conduct is therefore important to carry out effective work, economic co-operation and to improve the quality and quantity of production.
Moral conduct also helps to generate job enthusiasm in the employees and makes them feel that they are a part of an organisation. Low moral discipline in employees, on the other hand, indicates the presence of mental tension which not only effects production quantitatively and qualitatively but also results in important adverse consequences such as industrial accidents, more absenteeism, more labour turnovers and industrial unrest leading to strikes and lock outs. Low moral discipline makes the labour force indulge in anti-social activities. So, it decreases the productivity and interrupts work. Thus both employers and employees are adversely affected by low moral discipline.
In order to achieve success in economic activities nations as well as individuals have to make an effort to increase the moral discipline of workers. Various methods of increasing it are described in Buddhist teachings.
The moral discipline of the workers can be increased by inspiring them towards observing the PañcaŚīla (five precepts) and AṣtaŚīla (eight precepts) and making them practice mindfulness (meditation). Anāthapiṇḍika, the great businessman and devotee of Buddha, used to inspire his employees to take the eight precepts (aṣtaśīla) in the uposatha days.
Dealing with Pleasant Speech with Workers
Getting work done effectively is the motto of management. Since workers are also human beings, physical incentives alone may be inadequate for them to work effectively. Pleasant speech and kind behaviour are equally essential to get work done properly. Pleasant speech has such power that it could resolve several problems that could come from stake holders in economic activities. In the Mangalasutta Buddha had said, “Speaking with the pleasant speech is the supreme blessing.”
Pleasant speech towards the staff or worker may be the key to get success in getting the work done easily. Even animals do not like harsh words as depicted in the Nandi biśala Jātaka. The willingness to work hard with responsibility can be attained by pleasant speech.
How the different sections of management can benefit from Buddha’s teachings is described as follows:
Production management is related with plant location, factory planning, production and cost control etc. These activities produce the finished products at less cost.
Today, production involves the use of sophisticated machines and despite training workers and the safety arrangements in factories, industrial accidents occur frequently.
Accidents may happen for different reasons from the improper location of a plant, bad working conditions, to alcohol and drinking on the job and lack of concentration etc.
The problem of industrial accidents where companies may spend a lot on compensation can be significantly reduced by the practice of concentration. The accidents can be minimised through the observance of moral precepts and concentration practices that have been suggested in the teachings of Buddha.
The addictions of modern life (such as alcohol) and the consequent bad effects in the work place could be significantly decreased if people are taught to live with the earlier mentioned five precepts of Buddha so that they can raise their living standards and protect themselves from industrial accidents which would benefit them and also the organisation.
Finance is related to the source and uses of money. It is an important aspect in business activities and every business should have good financial management.
Without money business cannot be performed. Money is needed to start a business. It is needed to keep a business going and is needed when the business expands. The technique of arranging the money for capital and the management of working capital is a branch of financial management. There may be various sources from where the money can be collected. But it is possible only when there is sufficient savings. Capital formation for the investment can be done through equity or ownership capital or debt capital. Whatever the capital may be the savings are necessary. An individual may invest his savings to start his own business or he may purchase shares and debentures.
There are several discourses given by Buddha on the context of money and finance. Buddha had emphasized that money should be managed properly. In one incident Buddha had said that money can harm people like the harm done by a black cobra if it is improperly managed. Buddha had suggested that one should seek proper sources of funding and to utilise it properly.
Buddha had suggested that whatever the amount generated through business, it should not be fully expended for domestic use. The businessman should divide the profit into four parts. Among them two parts should be reinvested, one part should be consumed and one should be savings for future contingencies.
His suggestion of an investment of two parts out of four parts, i.e. 50% of profit, can be taken as clear hints on the growth of business by expansion and diversification. A person who seeks to make a profit should make an effort to expand and diversify a business by making investments in a proper way.
Cash management is another branch of financial management. Some modern policies seem somewhat unethical in practice and guided by selfish attitudes with benefits only for the short term and may produce harmful effects in the long run.
For example, it’s generally said that the collection of money should be accelerated and its disbursement should be delayed as far as possible. The system of accelerating the collection cannot be condemned as it is a common practice in business. But delaying payment cannot be said to be a fair practice. So, the Buddha’s view on retuning the cash and kind in the proper time may help a business work in a fair environment.
Buddha has clearly stated that loans and debts should be returned on time. The policy of returning a loan in time increases the good will of the organisation. It makes it possible to get more loans easily in the future. So, eventually the timely return of loans benefits the business organisation. In this way certain policies in modern financial management is opposite to the Buddha's teachings.
Marketing is another important aspect in business. Marketing is the movement of products and services from the producer to the user. In the words of William Stanton, “Marketing is a total system of business activities designed to plan, price, promote and distribute satisfying products and services to present and potential customers”.
How to successfully market goods has been described clearly in several jātakas of Buddhist literature. Honest behaviour, kind speech, selling quality products, make people want to purchase products repeatedly and regularly.
Marketing is not only selling a product to a customer but its entire operation is oriented towards discovering the customer’s total needs and problems and attempting to satisfy them. The concept of marketing thus relates to solving the problems of the customer and satisfying them. This is a crucial activity that can be achieved only through a kind heart. Loving kindness in the mind inspires people to make an effort to solve the problems of sentient beings. Generating love and kindness is to perceive the whole customer as a family and friend. This will contribute to the success of a business in the long run.
To sell a product proper techniques of salesmanship are required. According to Garifield Blake, “Salesmanship consists of wining the buyer’s confidence for the sellers”.
One needs to speak to sell any product. A pleasant speech manner attracts the customer and once the customer is attracted with pleasant speech and courteous behaviour, such customers will become regulars. In this context Buddha has expressed the importance of pleasant and courteous speech.
Pleasant speech is a precious asset within a human being which does not cost a single penny but in return various rewards can be gained through it.
Thus, the important aspects of business management can benefit from the application of the ethical teachings of Buddha. Generally, people believe that businesses can only succeed through fraud and misappropriation; no one is confident that success in business can be achieved by practicing morality, honesty and ethics. Of course one can get success in business by practicing immoral and unethical activities but only for the short term. If one wants a business to last, one must practice ethics and morality since, not only in Buddhism, there is also a general proverb in society which says, honesty is the best policy.
Manandhar is the former Vice Chancellor of the Lumbini Buddhist University. This article is based on a paper which he presented in a seminar held at Kathmandu on June 3.